On April 28 I watched the webcast of a Senate hearing regarding the oversight of motor carrier safety efforts.
Many very big trucking issues were discussed at the hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, including electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs), Hours of Service, driver pay, speed limits and speed governors, larger and longer trucks, wait times at shippers and receivers, driver fatigue and sleep studies, CSA 2010, out-of-service issues, new entrants and more.
Some seem to offer solutions, while others just appear to want to whine and complain and not offer anything substantive to help any of the situations.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., was the most vocal of the speakers on the Senate side of the hearing and is said by some to be “anti-trucking” and more supportive of rails. He is chairman of the Senate subcommittee on surface transportation and merchant and marine infrastructure, safety and security. As he questioned them, his tone and body language expressed disdain for those in trucking who make the rules or support drivers and trucking companies.
One only had to listen to his opening remarks to know that he was about to attack the industry rules and those who support them: “worst highway crash in more than 20 years … not an isolated event … crashes with large trucks along our highways cause, on average, 14 Americans to die every day … the 45 year-old truck driver — who was believed to have fallen asleep while behind the wheel — was also killed … as more trucks clog our highways … double- and triple-trailers don’t belong on our highways … it is essential that we take the danger posed by tired truck drivers seriously … we need to make sure truck drivers are alert and driving safely … [HOS] regulations were so egregious that the courts struck them down not once — but twice … EOBRs should be installed in every truck and bus … a key way to enforce HOS, combat fatigue and hold drivers accountable is EOBRs.”
Whew — that’s a lot of stuff. And the only solutions he offered were changing HOS rules and installing EOBRs on every truck. However, during the hearing it was pointed out, mostly by Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association Vice President Todd Spencer, that there is no, nada, zero, zip data showing that EOBRs are any better at ensuring drivers’ safety and honesty on logs than are paper logbooks.
That’s new information to me and perhaps to Mr. Lautenberg since that was his main solution to fix all evils in trucking. I would find it amazingly sad that people suggest making such a sweeping change without any proof that it will actually improve anything, but I’ve been following these issues and the trucking industry for almost 10 years and it seems a lot is talked about but not a lot is done.
Many important issues were discussed, but more than anything it was a lot of whine with no cheese, where cheese represents a solution. Everyone knows that when government is involved it takes seemingly forever to make changes.
What do you want Administrator Anne Ferro and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to do, Mr. Lautenberg? Are you suggesting that they can somehow rush these rules through the system without the usual processes? Maybe that’s the solution — change the rulemaking process.
Or on the other hand, perhaps those who find trucking nothing more than a nuisance could figure out some way to get goods to stores and homes without carrying them on the highways of America.
To borrow a phrase from ATA: “Good Stuff. Trucks bring it.”
Sure, Mr. Lautenberg, trains bring stuff too, but without trucks how would anything get to the stores and customers?
Let me add, that someone pointed out to me that members of Congress are in a tough spot because constituents want things to be better and it’s their goal to do that. Perhaps that could explain Mr. Lautenberg’s attitude toward those in trucking that are trying to fix what’s wrong, but as the saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.